Looop Photo

Apparel has an abysmal sustainability rep, with one of the largest carbon footprints of any industry. But fast fashion giant H&M is out to change the narrative with a new project called Looop. Billed as the world’s first in-store garment-to-garment recycling system, it gives shoppers a front-row seat to the retailer’s latest take on the circular economy. 

Here’s how it works: Workers feed an unwanted garment into a machine the size of a shipping container to be cleaned, shredded and spun into yarn. Within five hours, a machine converts that yarn into a new sweater, scarf or baby blanket. Because the system doesn’t rely on water or chemicals, the process has a significantly lower environmental impact than conventional garment production. Upon completion, customers can purchase the rewoven item for SEK150 (with SEK50 lopped off for H&M loyalty club members). 

To build buy-in—and buzz—the company is turning Looop into an in-store experience, letting shoppers check out the entire process through the glass walls of the room encasing the machine.

“Getting customers on board is key to achieve real change, and we are so excited to see what Looop will inspire,” said Pascal Brun, head of sustainability, H&M, Hong Kong, China. 

Developed by the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel and Novetex Textiles, the Looop system debuted in October at the H&M store in Stockholm in the retailer’s home base of Sweden. The project is just one part of H&M’s broader sustainability strategy, which puts the retailer on course to be climate positive across its entire value chain by 2040. 

To make that goal a reality, the company needs to make major changes to its business model, including reducing the overall amount of clothing it produces each year. So along with Looop, H&M has trialed a clothing rental shopping alternative, created a secondhand market for its products, and launched its Conscious line of home and apparel goods, which it says are made from at least 50 percent sustainably sourced materials.